Morality can be defined as the principles that govern our behavior. These principles that we obtain during our youth and adolescent years begin to play an important part in our relationship with society. What we think, how we act, and what our beliefs are play a crucial role in our morality. Most believe that moral behavior is not something that in innate, but that it is something that is learned through observation. The concepts of fair play and sportsmanship are taught directly and indirectly from the coaches, parents, and others during the development of the child.

Moral behavior is learned from observing others and is a result of intellectual development One important factor that defines moral is “intentionality”. Poinsett (1996) states that for a moral act to occur it must be intentional. Additionally he adds that the person contains a sense of obligation to fulfill a certain duty. After gaining knowledge on the subject on moral behavior, one can now be able to identify morality in the context of sport.

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Helping out an opponent after a brutal fall, or retrieving a ball for an official are all intentional, while at the same time making the child believe that he or she has a certain obligation to fulfill. Sports give children ample amounts of opportunity to show and display their moral practice because the concepts of fairness support the very existence of the notion to sport (Poinsett, 1996). Fairness, sportsmanship and character are all terms that are associated with morality that will be further discussed in this paper. As we know competition is the basis for almost every sport contest there is.

But in youth sports there is a lot less focus on competition, and a lot more on cooperation and fair play. In order for fair play to be met all competitors must understand and agree to the rules of the game. By doing this the competitors provide each other with a worthy challenge, and the determination of “winning”. The development of morality begins once these terms are met. Fair play is believed to be something that is not innate, but that is something that is taught by the coaches and parents who organize and run the sporting event.

Teaching the child concepts of fair play during the sport experience is very critical in a child’s moral development. The child will be looking up to parents, coaches, and officials in ways that they react in certain situations, so it is important that these adults lead by example at all times. It is the responsibility of everyone who is associated with the sporting event to help teach the young athletes concepts of fair play to promote their moral development. Sportsmanship is another factor in the development of moral.

It is defined as the behavior of becoming a sports person. Keating (1964) says that sportsmanship is learned by maximizing the enjoyable experience of all participants. When games and matches are have a high level of competition than the athlete’s true sportsmanship is revealed. Sportsmanship involves a maintained vision of one’s moral behavior during extreme competition. Humphrey (2003) says that “sportsmanship is concerned with the social conduct of a participant who is thought of as a good loser and a gracious winner” (p. 96).

If young athletes can give sincere congratulations to the opposing team after a lost, then they have demonstrated true sportsmanship and development of moral. Poinsett (1996) states that “Participation in sports can teach and reinforce the concept of sportsmanship to youth more readily than almost any other alternative activity” (p. 50). The National Youth Sports Coaches Association is an organization based out of Florida that provides programs and services to anyone affiliated with youth sports, including coaches, parents and athletes.

During one of their summit’s the NYSCA agreed that children enjoy sports most when they are taught and encouraged to sharpen their playing skills in an atmosphere of sportsmanship and fair play (Humphrey, 2003). This is a type of thinking that most people have used when defining youth sportsmanship. Sports can teach young athletes many valuable lessons which in turn build good character. Learning to overcome obstacles, cooperating with teammates, persist even after defeat, develop self-control and learn to live graciously with victory or defeat are all examples that young athletes can learn through sport.

Poinsett (2003) quotes that “there are not many situations in everyday life which provides either the kind of opportunities or the number of them evoking the qualities which are considered desirable” (p. 52). What he is saying is that sport provides the child with the best opportunity to develop true qualities like perseverance, honesty, and courage. Although this character development might not always be formation of positive traits, it is still a development of character and moral.

It is, again, up to the coaches, parents, and organizations to provide positive experiences for the child in order to form a proper character development. It is important to know that arriving at a moral judgment is almost impossible without any moral reasoning. Most theorist concur that that moral reasoning undergoes changes in the course of the child’s development which can be either more or less mature (Smoll or Smith, 2003). Moral reasoning has been related to acts of aggression and beliefs of fair play. If sport experiences can be designed effectively then this can definitely lead to a promotion of moral reasoning.

Coaches and parents must understand that when teaching the child the sport, moral development must be one of the goals. If this can be done then the sport experience can stimulate the development of moral reasoning. Back in the beginning of the semester we learned a term called social learning theory. Lightfoot, M. Cole, and S. Cole (2009) defined social learning theories as “Theories that focus on development as the result of learning, changes in behavior as a result of forming associations between behavior and its consequences” (p. 0). As we know, the main concepts of social learning theories are the changes in behavior through rewards, punishments and other reinforces. These theorists believe that rewards and punishment are what shapes the child into who they become, and there is many evidence of this through youth sports. Many methods have been used to demonstrate changes in behavior through social learning theory, but the most important method is the reinforcement contingences (Poinsett 2003).

Basically what this means is that behavior will be repeated if it is positively reinforced, and will be decreased if it’s met with punishment. If a youth-aged soccer player is rewarded for helping out a fellow teammate, then chances are that the child will repeat that behavior again in the future. Another method that is used is a term called modeling, which is another term we learned in our textbook. Modeling is the process by which children observe and imitate others (Lightfoot et al. , 2009). When children bserve someone act in a positive way they are more likely to act that way as well. Positive reinforcement and modeling are both two methods in helping the child development correct morality. It is important that not only the child thinks morally, but that the child acts morally. Shield and Bredmeier (1995) proposed through their research that moral thoughts, motivations and emotions are critical but that moral action (physical action) is the cornerstone of moral being. The concepts of fair play and sportsmanship are learned through the teaching and responses from coaches and parents.

Morality is learned though continuous positive reinforcement and through the modeling of others. In order for the development of moral behavior to occur, youth athletes must have coaches who believe in the principles of fair play and sportsmanship. They must teach the child and discuss certain situations in which the young athletes made either the right move, or the wrong one. The coach or parent must reward the positive behaviors, and correct the negative ones. If this is done correctly then the child will move into the future with a positive moral behavior.